Humility, The Forgotten Virtue

by Jeannette Haley

Several years ago, a friend invited me and one of our board members to visit his church. He went to great lengths to tell us how wonderful his pastor was, how awesome the worship was, and how terrific all their outreach programs were. It all sounded too good to be true, but we decided to drive the considerable distance to visit this well-known church. After all, being with like-minded Christians who truly love the Lord is a bit of heaven on earth—especially after you have lived for years in a remote area where such churches are non-existent.

We somehow managed to locate our friend in the huge foyer which looked more like the entrance to a theater than the house of God. It sported a coffee bar and a bookstore that stocked all the best-selling authors. A cursory glance at the titles revealed a mishmash of Manifest Sons of God, hyper-faith, false prophecy, pop psychology heresies along with the latest fiction thrillers. I began to feel sick to my stomach.

Our friend was definitely in his element as he led us to our cushioned seats close to the front. The rumble of a thousand conversations echoed through the large auditorium. Suddenly, the lights dimmed except for those on the platform which, in typical Broadway fashion, highlighted the band members and worship leaders. Drums reverberated through the building, as the big screen overhead focused on the lead singer. For the next hour we were put through rigorous physical and vocal exercise to repetitious, hypnotic choruses and chants. Young women danced, banners flew, and the noise accelerated to a mind-numbing pitch.

After what seemed an eternity, the pastor finally made his appearance and stepped up behind the pulpit. Any misgivings we may have had up to this point gave way to total and utter disgust, coupled with the type of grief that gnaws at your spirit. While his manipulations to rake in as much money as he could, complete with veiled threats, were bad enough, it was this man’s lack of humility that exposed him for what he was. He bragged about “gold dust” appearing on his person, which to his deluded followers verified him as a true man of God.

Finally, as the mesmerized audience was bedazzled by images on the big screen of “gold dust” pouring out of a woman’s hair, my friend and I made our hasty escape to the safety of our vehicle where we could discuss the blend of pop paganism and occultism that we had just witnessed.

Volumes could be written (and they have and are) by watchmen, comparing the early church to the various “winds of doctrine,” “doctrines of demons,” and other unscriptural and worldly movements within modern Christendom. Sadly, the majority of modern church attendees of today couldn’t care less about the history of the Church, which in itself provides a stark contrast for sober contemplation. What is even more startling is the fact that multitudes of church people today are ignorant of even the simplest and most foundational teachings of the Bible.

Please consider that proof of the preceding statement is evidenced by the following:

1) People “shop” for a church much like they shop for a car. They want what best suits their purpose, and makes them feel and look good, rather than asking God where they should go for sound biblical teaching and instruction that challenges them to the core for their soul’s sake.

2) People are ignorant of the fact that the foundation and marketing strategies for mega churches is the same as that for any large corporation (which they are), rather than the foundation of Jesus Christ and Him alone. People fail to ask God who He wants them to financially support. Usually the presentation of a weak Jesus is merely tacked on.

3) The biggest sellers in “Christian” bookstores are Christian fiction and books about the latest church growth fads. Hymnals are nearly extinct. Truly anointed worship music has been replaced by hard rock groups that look and sound more like advocates for Satan than representatives of a holy God.

4) Emphasis is placed on what church a person is affiliated with rather than on the person of Jesus Christ and one’s relationship to Him, including grave concern for lost souls. Only a minority of Christians today are concerned with evangelism and missionary work on a global scale.

5) The focus for the majority of modern “churched” people is the world and money, and no one needs look further than their particular church affiliation and so-called Christian life and “service” for evidence of this fact. They fit very comfortably in with the world in their philosophy of life, goals, attitudes, dress, and behavior.

6) The fruit coming out of most churched people today reveals their spiritual state. Because they (bottom line) do not love God, but instead, think highly of themselves, character and integrity are never developed. Thus, they fail to test the fruit coming out of their lives.

7) Finally, the shocking truth is the sins of adultery, fornication, abortion, perversion, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, lying, variance, wrath, strife, rebellion, heresies, jealousy, gossip and slander, rude and self-centered behavior, self-exaltation, and selfishness, among other shameful sins originating out of pride, are common among churched people today. This reveals above all else an appalling lack of faith in God and His Word.

While much could be written concerning these seven points, for the purpose of this article, it is my intention to point out one basic common denominator, that is, the absence of humility. A truly humble person wants to please God, and will accept His will for his or her life, even if it means forsaking family, friends and fun churches.

Humility lines up with godliness in every area of one’s life, including sacrificial giving as directed by the Holy Spirit, reading those things which line up to Scripture and which feed the soul (edify), worshipping according to the character and attributes of God, and shunning that which is fleshly and carnal.

Humility is willing to go the extra mile at any cost to maintain uprightness before God. Humility walks hand in hand with great love and concern for the poor, the helpless and the lost. True humility (not fake humility) couldn’t care less about what others think of himself or herself, but aims instead at pleasing only one Master—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Humility is at both the “starting gate” and the “finishing line” of the Christian race. Without humility, there can be no true salvation. Jesus, in Luke 18:9-14, gives us this incredibly valuable insight:

“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

   True repentance is the result of humility of mind and heart concerning a person’s state as a lost sinner in need of a savior. It takes humility to come into agreement with God over one’s spiritual condition. But, concerning pride Andrew Murray wrote, “It is pride that made redemption needful. It is from our pride we need, above everything, to be redeemed. And our insight into the need of redemption will largely depend on our knowledge of the terrible nature of the power that has entered our being.

“Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power, outside of us as well as within us. We must confess it, deplore it, and be aware of its satanic origin. This may lead us to despair of ever conquering it or casting it out. But, it will also lead us all the sooner to that supernatural power in which alone our deliverance is to be found—the redemption of the Lamb of God. The hopeless struggle against the workings of self and pride within us may, indeed, become still more hopeless as we think of the power of darkness behind it all. But eventually, we will better realize and accept the power and life outside of ourselves—the humility of heaven, as brought down by the Lamb of God to cast out Satan and his pride.” (Humility by Andrew Murray, pgs. 16, 17.)

Why are pride and its unfruitful works of darkness not addressed by most church leaders today? Could it be because the influence of worldly pursuits and pleasures has blinded them to the power of this overshadowing and all-encompassing sin? Perhaps pride has so blinded the popular pied pipers of Christendom today that they believe themselves to be above scriptural admonitions and warnings against it? Are they also better than the Lord Himself who was and is our ultimate example of humility? Godly men and women bear a humble likeness to Jesus, whose essence was that of lowliness and humility.

The Word tells us, concerning Christ’s humility: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” Matthew 11:29. “After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” John 13:5. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2:8.

   Those who ignore their pride and its motivating factor in their lives may appear to be on top of the world, enjoying great popularity and success, but it’s only for a season. Proverbs 29:23 warns: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” And, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” Proverbs 16: 18, 19.

What God Almighty has to say about the pride of man should cause us to tremble, for it is written, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” Isaiah 57:15. And, in James 4:6, 7 we read: “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Here we see that God resists the proud. How can we assume, therefore, that He is indeed present in our man-exalting, man-centered, fleshly churches? Has God changed? Furthermore, how can we expect the devil to flee from us if we, instead of humbling ourselves before God and then “resisting” him, get worked up by a lot of prideful hoopla into making a frontal attack on him to bring his kingdom down? This popular practice is taught nowhere in Scripture.

Instead, James 4:8-10 tells us: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

God has shown us how we are to walk in this world. His Word declares it from cover to cover, yet we continually meet religious people who are in mass confusion concerning God’s will. The root problem to their “complicated” difficulties is pride. Pride refuses to come to God in the simple, humble faith of a little child. It refuses to lower itself to humbly submit and believe. Because pride is of Satan and wicked, it must hide behind a smokescreen of intellectualism and superiority. But, what can be plainer than these words found in Micah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Jesus told us that we would be able to discern the children of God by their fruit. Without humility (or meekness), the fruit of one’s life is not complete. There can be no true greatness in the Kingdom of God without the humility of Christ. Jesus said, But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” Luke 22:26. Would you be great? Jesus says, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:4.

Andrew Murray’s words concerning sin and grace are most timely. He wrote: “It is not sin, but grace, that will make me indeed know myself as a sinner, and make the sinner’s place of deepest humility the place I never leave.

“I fear that there are many who have sought to humble themselves by strong expressions of self-condemnation and self-denunciation, and yet have to confess with sorrow that a humble spirit, accompanied by kindness, compassion, meekness, and forbearance, is still as far off as ever. Being occupied with self, even amid the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self.

“It is the revelation of God, not only by the law condemning sin, but by His grace delivering from it, that will make us humble. The law may break the heart with fear. But it is only grace that works that sweet humility which becomes a joy to the soul as its second nature. It was the revelation of God in His holiness, drawing near to Abraham and Jacob, Job and Isaiah, bow so low.

“There will be no room for self in the soul that waits for, trusts, worships, and is filled with the presence of God the Creator as the all of man in his nothingness, and God the Redeemer as the all of the sinner in his sinfulness. In only this way can the promise be fulfilled: “The haughtiness of man shall be made low, and the Lord alone be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17). (Ibid. pgs. 64, 65.)

As we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior this month, considering the price He paid for our redemption, may we truly repent of all arrogance, haughtiness and pride so that we may draw near to Him in true assurance and joy. Let us examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith, or if we have been led astray by our own flesh and pride into worldliness and deception that merely presents a religious façade. After all, our eternal destiny depends upon our willingness to humble ourselves.